Going in Space

Not into, but in. Witness this headline from Yahoo News:

“NASA on the hunt for space poop geniuses”

Miami (AFP) – When you’ve got to go, but you’re out there in space, zipped up in a spacesuit, with no toilet in sight and a crew of other astronauts around, what do you do?

NASA has launched a contest for inventors to solve this uncomfortable issue, and promises to award $30,000 to the best “space poop” solutions.

Inventors have until December 20 to submit designs for a personalized waste-wicking system that will handle everything, hands-free, for a period of up to six days.

“The old standby solution consisted of diapers,” said the description of contest details at http://www.herox.com/SpacePoop.

“However, the diaper is only a very temporary solution, and doesn’t provide a healthy/protective option longer than one day.” . . .


None of the solutions from NASA and the Russian Space Agency, of course, were designed for astronauts wearing spacesuits.  Here’s a Zero-Gravity Toilet from 1971 from NASA.  The description reads:

The waste-management unit in June 1971. Having the toilet mounted in the middle of the wall posed no problem in zero gravity. Between the toilet and the lap belt is the holder for the urine receiver. Urine would be collected in the three drawers at the bottom. The foot restraints on the floor proved of little use.

I quickly dispatched the news of this contest to our grandchildren’s households, figuring this was a problem in need of a six- or seven-year-old solution. It was at least good for their level of humor, which is best described as ‘poopy’.

Not receiving any response from the younger generation, I put on my inventor’s hat, and quickly came up with an age-old answer:


You remember drop-bottom pajamas. They look like this (with the bottom up):


From an Amazon.com ad, with appreciation for the pun.

Now obviously you can’t just drop your bottom when in a cold, airless environment, though if outside the ship, the vastness of space makes an inviting toilet. But can we not devise a way of docking the bottom of your spacesuit to, shall we say, a ‘can’, without losing air pressure? With our 21st-century ability to manufacture and control miniature gizmos, conceivably we could even contrive to have the Can do some mechanical washing and wiping as well!

The possibilties are, well, endless. Just as the original space program adopted a powdered drink mix called Tang®, resulting in vastly increased sales, so the Spaceman’s Robotic Can might easily be adopted to our earthly bathrooms—no spacesuit needed, though one can envision a renaissance in drop-bottom ‘onesies’.


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